Black History and Women Timeline 1950-1959

African American History and Women Timeline

Rosa Parks Gets Fingerprinted
Rosa Parks gets fingerprinted. Underwood Archives/Getty Images

[Previous] [Next]

1950

Gwendolyn Brooks became the first African American to win a Pulitzer Prize (for Annie Allen)

Althea Gibson became the first African American to play at Wimbledon

• Juanita Hall became the first African American to win a Tony Award, for playing Bloody Mary in South Pacific

• (January 16) Debbie Allen born (choreographer, actor, director, producer)

• (February 2) Natalie Cole born (singer; daughter of Nat King Cole)

1951

• (July 15) Mary White Ovington died (social worker, reformer, NAACP founder)

• Linda Brown's father sues the Topeka, Kansas, school board because she has to travel by bus to a school for African American children, when she could walk to the segregated school for white children only.  This becomes the Brown v. Board of Education landmark civil rights case.

1952

(September) Autherine Juanita Lucy and Pollie Myers apply to the University of Alabama, and are accepted. Their acceptances were rescinded when the University discovered they were not white. They took the case to court, and it took three years to resolve the case.

1952

1954

• Norma Sklarek became the first African American woman licensed as an architect

• Dorothy Dandridge was the first African Amerian woman nominated for a Best Actress Oscar, for playing the lead role in Carmen Jones

• (January 29) Oprah Winfrey born (first African American woman billionaire, first African American woman to host a nationally syndicated talk show)

• (September 22) Shari Belafonte-Harper born (actress)

• (May 17) in Brown v. Board of Education, Supreme Court ordered schools desegregate "with all deliberate speed" -- finds "separate but equal" public facilities to be unconstitutional

• (July 24) Mary Church Terrell died (activist, clubwoman)

1955

• (May 18) Mary McLeod Bethune died

• (July) Rosa Parks attended a workshop at the Highlander Folk School in Tennessee, learning effective tools for civil rights organizing

• (August 28) Emmett Till, 14 years old, is killed by a white mob in Mississippi, accused of whistling at a white woman

• (December 1) Rosa Parks arrested when she refused to give up a seat and move to the rear of the bus, triggering the Montgomery bus boycott

Marian Anderson became the first African American member of the Metropolitan Opera company

1956

Mae Jemison born (astronaut, physician)

• hundreds of women and men in Montgomery walk miles to work rather than use the buses, in the Montgomery Bus Boycott

• a court ordered the University of Alabama to admit Autherine Juanita Lucy, who filed suit in 1952 (see above). She is at first admitted but barred from dormitories and dining halls.  She enrolled on February 3 as a graduate student in library science, the first black student admitted to a white public school or university in Alabama. The university expelled her in March, claiming she had slandered the school, after riots broke out and the courts ordered the university to protect her. In 1988, the University annulled the expulsion and she returned to school, earning her M.A.

degree in education in 1992. The school even named a clock tower for her, and featured her portrait in the student union honoring her initiative and courage.

• (December 21) US Supreme Court ruled bus segregation in Montgomery, Alabama, unconstitutional

1957

• African American students, advised by NAACP activist Daisy Bates, desegregated a Little Rock, Arkansas, school, under the protection of military troops ordered in by the federal government

• (April 15) Evelyn Ashford born (athlete, track and field; four Olympic gold medals, Track and Field Women's Hall of Fame)

Althea Gibson became the first African American to win at Wimbledon and the first African American to win the US Open

• Associated Press named Althea Gibson their "Woman Athlete of the Year"

1958

• (August 16) Angela Bassett born (actress)

1959

• (March 11) Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry became the first Broadway play written by an African American woman -- Sidney Poitier and Claudia McNeil starred

• (January 12) Motown Records founded in Detroit after Berry Gordy deferred working for Billy Davis and Gordy's sisters Gwen and Anna at Anna Records; female stars from Motown included Diane Ross and the Supremes, Gladys Knight, Queen Latifah.

• (December 21, 1959) Florence Griffith-Joyner born (athlete, track and field; first African American to win four medals in one Olympics; sister-in-law of Jackie Joyner-Kersee)

[Previous] [Next]

[1492-1699] [1700-1799] [1800-1859] [1860-1869] [1870-1899] [1900-1919] [1920-1929] [1930-1939] [1940-1949] [1950-1959] [1960-1969] [1970-1979] [1980-1989] [1990-1999] [2000-]